Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, severe temperature swings: so often natural disasters surprise us. Depending on how severe and the conditions of the place they strike, they can overwhelm communities – leaving chaos and destruction in their wake.
Is there any way you can prepare for a natural disaster? As daunting as that sounds, what can we do to plan for our pets? How can a rural farmer account for the needs of livestock when a disaster strikes?
Participants in the simulated flood exercise.
It was with these questions in mind that WSPA came together with about 500 villagers in Bihar State, India and representatives from various government agencies and the Indian military to conduct an emergency simulation or drill on November 8.
Hansen Thambi Prem, WSPA India’s Diaster Project Manager discusses the exercise with a member of India’s National Army.
WSPA India’s Dr. Ashish Sutar speaks with villagers about how best to prepare their animals for disasters.
Simulating a flood on a large scale is not an easy operation. Add a few hundred cattle, buffalo and goats to the mix and you get a fairly realistic sense of the challenges facing even a small community trying to organise and survive in a real disaster.
Simulated evacuation exercise
Bihar is a disaster-prone state in northern India. Recurring disasters like flood and drought have had a crippling effect on the state’s economy. It is an economy largely made up of agriculture and animals. Animals experience emergencies the same way people do. They feel pain, stress and can become ill. Surviving animals suffer the effects of flood, drought and other emergency situations. When people communities are devastated or caught unprepared, their animals suffer as well. Sometimes, just knowing where to evacuate to, and how to do so in a way that the animals’ welfare is maintained is the difference between survival and suffering or loss.
The people who live here and depend on animals for their livelihoods know this as well as anyone and were very pleased to be able to practice evacuation drills and flood preparedness in a way that considers the needs of their animals too.
The exercise drew approximately 500 villagers and their animals in disaster-prone Madhubani District, Bihar.
We’re very encouraged by the excellent cooperation between WSPA and our partners in Bihar. With the government and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) recognising that animals matter in disasters, we can imagine a day in the not too distant future where disasters take less of a toll on people and animals in better-prepared communities.
After the drill, animals and the people who care for them have a better chance of surviving future disasters.